Album Review: Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour

By on Thursday, 9th February 2012 at 12:00 pm

From the first bars of ‘Sweet Sour’, I know I am listening to a Band of Skulls record. The drum beat is almost deafening and you can smell the influence of the White Stripes in the first beat!

Band of Skulls broke onto the scene with their debut album ‘Baby Darling Doll Face Honey.’ With single ‘I Know What I Am’ leading the charge on the album, it gained huge critical praise, no doubt with drums that would make even John Bonham think, “ooh, that’s loud”. Their brand of garage-blues rock and the fact they are a boy-girl partnership earned them a lot of White Stripes’ comparisons. But that shouldn’t count against them; nobody can replicate the ‘Stripes’ and nor have Band of Skulls tried to. This band have a lot more of a grunge-y feeling then the Stripes ever did, and this isn’t just because their guitarist Russel Marsden looks a little Kurt Cobain-ish.

‘Wanderluster’ is a bittersweet romantic’s look at lust and loving, and it works brilliantly with Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson’s vocal clash. ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ won me over with its title alone, but the chaos of the song in itself is simply brilliant. The guitars are screeching all over the place, and the drumming is ferocious. ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On’ starts as it means to go on; the pace is high, the vocals dripping with sleaze: “You turn on but there’s nobody home/ Your feet straight but you’re not as natural.” This band has gone gritty with this record and by and large, it’s hard to criticise them.

Slow-paced ‘Navigate’ takes a different tact with Richardson leading the vocals. It’s still pacey as you expect from the Skulls but at nearly 5 and a half minutes, it does drag on slightly. ‘Hometown’ is the same kind of formula and really does show that the second half of the album is a more mellow affair than the beginning. The change of pace, sadly, is not a welcome in my eyes. The vocals are immaculate throughout, but Band Of Skulls sound best when they are thrashing away. So it’s a joy when ‘Lies’ kicks in with a harsh drum beat and some bass riffery.

My opinion on this album is one of two halves. The beginning of the record, especially title track ‘Sweet Sour’ (free download from this MP3 of the Day last week, brand new video below), is fantastic; it’s classic Band Of Skulls and the kind of songs I cannot wait to hear live. Then comes the slowdown in pace near the album’s close, and this is what lets it down. However, don’t let this deter you from buying this solid effort from a seriously talented band.



‘Sweet Sour’, the new album from Band of Skulls, will be released on the 20th of February on Electric Blues Recordings. You can stream the album for free at SPIN or Pure Volume. Catch the band live on a tour starting on the 17th of February in Darlington; all the details are here.

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[…] 2 weeks ago, we were treated to the anything but a ‘Sweet Sour’ follow-up to Band of Skulls’ aforementioned 2011 record, bonus single, ‘Be Mine’. It hardly […]

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